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Evolution of juvenile growth rates in female guppies (Poecilia reticulata): predator regime or resource level?

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Recent theoretical and empirical work argues that growth rate can evolve and be optimized, rather than always being maximized. Chronically low resource availability is predicted to favour the evolution of slow growth, whereas attaining a size-refuge from mortality risk is predicted to favor the evolution of rapid growth. Guppies (Poecilia reticulata) evolve difference in behaviour, morphology and life-history traits in response to predation, thus demonstrating that predators are potent agents of selection. Predators in low-predation environments prey preferentially on small guppies, but hose in high-predation environments appear to be non-selective. Because guppies can outgrow their main predator in low- but not high-predation localities, we predict that predation will select for higher growth rate in the low-predation environments. However, low-predation localities also tend to have lower productivity than high-predation localities, yielding the prediction that guppies from these sites should have slower growth rate. Here, we compare the growth rates of the second laboratory-born generation of guppies from paired high- and low-predation localities from four different drainages. In two out of four comparisons, guppies from high-predation sites grew significantly faster than their low-predation counterparts. We also compare laboratory born descendants from a field introduction experiment and show that guppies introduced to a low-predation environment evolved slower growth rates after 13 years, although this was evident only at the high food level. The weight of the evidence suggests that resource availability plays a more important role than predation in shaping the evolution of growth rates.

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